WASHINGTON— U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) introduced historic legislation today increasing protections for farmworkers and children by banning dangerous pesticides like paraquat, chlorpyrifos and neonicotinoids.
The legislation also closes loopholes in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act that the pesticide industry has exploited for decades to keep dangerous products in use.
The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020 includes new safeguards to better protect farmworkers from harmful, sometimes lethal, pesticide exposure, and imposes strict deadlines for the EPA to reassess dozens of dangerous pesticides already banned in the European Union or Canada.
“For too long children, farmworkers and countless others have been harmed by dangerous pesticides, including many banned in other countries,” said Emily Knobbe, EPA policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These long overdue, common-sense reforms will finally ensure that industry profit no longer comes before people’s health or our environment.”
The legislation would end industry’s abuse of the emergency exemption and conditional-registration provisions of FIFRA. The new legislation would close loopholes in the law that allowed for “emergency” approvals of pesticides year after year and “conditional” approvals of pesticides even when industry failed to provide scientific documentation of their safety.
The legislation would also ban paraquat, a lethally toxic pesticide banned in the European Union that is known to cause Parkinson’s disease. It would ban all organophosphate insecticides, including chlorpyrifos, that are linked to brain development problems in children.
“Exposure to paraquat increases risk for Parkinson’s disease — as well as causes lung damage and other issues — so this herbicide must be banned,” said Todd Sherer, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “An estimated one million Americans live with Parkinson’s, and it is irresponsible to continue allowing a chemical on the market that is a known contributor to developing this neurodegenerative disease. In addition to the human toll, Parkinson’s costs our country $52 billion every year, and more than $25 billion of that is shouldered by government programs like Medicare and Social Security. Banning paraquat will reduce the number of people who develop Parkinson’s and ease the economic burden.”
The legislation would protect farmworkers by requiring employers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA and establish strict penalties for reporting failures, concealing information, or retaliating against workers.
It would also require all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish as well as any other language spoken by more than 500 farmworkers who use a particular pesticide.
“Farmworkers are routinely exposed to high levels of pesticides in the fields where they work and the communities where they live,” said Iris Figueroa, a senior staff attorney at Farmworker Justice. “Ensuring that pesticide labels can actually be understood by the workers’ applying these products is a basic yet essential step for mitigating exposure risk. Additionally, the enforcement of existing safety standards is hindered by the current lack of transparency regarding pesticide exposure incidents, as well as workers’ fear of retaliation if they speak up about safety violations. The reforms in this bill provide long-overdue protections for the workers who provide our food, facing significant risks to their own health as they do so.”